What you watch, read, and listen to can do a lot to shape your identity.

Young people see themselves reflected in popular media on a daily basis.  Movies, television shows, magazines, music videos, and the Internet are considered popular media.  Think about how much time you spend watching, reading, and listening on a typical day.  Now think about the kinds of things you spend time watching, reading, and listening to.

You might not realize the role that popular media plays in shaping the person you are, but it’s a big one.  It’s especially big for people who do not have a strong sense of themselves.  It’s normal for young people to struggle with this issue. Growing up is when you’re supposed to be looking for ways to create and define yourself.

Like the clothes you shop for, some times it can be hard to find an identity that feels like the right fit.  But exactly what is an identity?

An identity is a person’s individuality or personality.  Each of us has an identity that is unique to who we are.  Those identities can be created by many things, including: the communities we live in, the families we belong to, our social & peer groups, and the interests we have.

Your personal identity is the way that you see yourself.  The way you see yourself is closely related to your self image.  This is important because it affects what you believe you can be, do and achieve in life.

We are surrounded by all kinds of images in popular media.  They can influence the way people dress, how they act, and what kinds of music they listen to.  Without a strong sense of yourself, creating an identity can be difficult, or at least problematic.

Young people actively and creatively sample parts of popular media as they produce their individual identities.  Popular media provides many options for who you can be.  But you must be careful.  Creating an identity in today’s media-hyped society is not easy.

Some young people have difficulty finding the identity that’s right for them.  Popular media can lead to confusion as it can promote unrealistic images for young people to live up to.  Popular media can also promote behaviors that put them at risk.

Young people often see themselves reflected in popular media through slick and unrealistic messages.  You can find them delivered through advertising campaigns, on reality television shows, in music videos, etc.  These messages create problems.  Body image issues.  Acting out dangerous or negative behaviors.  A collective lack of individuality.  These are all the results of someone’s identity being misshaped by popular media.

It is important to know that an identity is not a fixed thing.  It is something that a person can create over a period of time.  An identity can constantly be updated or changed completed.  Young people can be seen to change their identities often.  That’s because they come into contact with many different influences all the time.

This is the first of a three-part lesson.  The next Be Unlimited will offer strategies for creating an identity that’s the right fit for you.  The choices are unlimited!

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